The Metrolinx Board Meeting agenda for February 19 includes the Draft Benefits Case Analysis for Hamilton’s King-Main LRT corridor.
The route would link McMaster University with Eastgate Square, and the alignment would be the same for either an LRT or a BRT implementation.
East Section – turning from a segregated terminus adjacent to Eastgate Square the alignment travels westward in a median transitway via Queenston Road to the Main Street / Ottawa Street Intersection.
Downtown Section – the alignment continues westward from the Main Street/Ottawa Street Intersection along a median of King Street East across John Street and James Street through downtown. The alignment continues along King Street West across Highway 403 to Longwood Road South where it provides convenient access to Westdale Village and the McMaster Community. At Longwood Road South the alignment runs southbound to Main Street.
West Section – From Longwood Road South the alignment transitions into the centre of Main Street and continues westward towards the McMaster University Medical Centre before turning north towards the terminus station on the McMaster University campus. (Page 24)
The BCA examines three options:
- all BRT,
- all LRT, or
- a staged implementation of LRT on the heavier western part of the route connecting at King and Ottawa to BRT for the remainder. The LRT would be extended to Eastgate Square at a future date.
Common to all designs would be the reintroduction of two-way traffic on what is now the one-way pair of King and Main Streets in downtown Hamilton.
The BCA considers but rejects the option of diverting the route south to link with Hunter Street Station, now the site of GO Transit’s Hamilton rail service. A GO connection will be important, but to which station? The recently announced extension of service to Niagara Falls will return train service to the old James Street Station on the north side of downtown. Indeed, more trains may run through James Street than to Hunter Street. The rapid transit line cannot connect with both of them.
GO Transit unveiled a plan last night in which it aims to extend all-day train service — that now goes to Aldershot — to a proposed station on the CN line at James Street North. That would involve 10 trains each way between the proposed new Hamilton station and Union Station in Toronto. Niagara would see four trains each way between Union Station and Niagara Falls. Hamilton would keep its eight trains — four each way — that now run between Union Station and the former Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway station on Hunter Street.
Source: Canadian Pacific Daily News Scan from the Hamilton Spectator and the Niagara Falls Review, January 27, 2010
After a great deal of number crunching (which I will leave to my readers’ copious spare time), the report concludes:
Overall, the results indicate that an investment in LRT in Hamilton will generate significant benefits and support the City’s broader objectives to revitalize, redevelop and reshape its most significant east-west corridor. While the lowest cost option, Option 1, produces the highest benefit-cost ratio of 1.4, both LRT options generated benefit-cost ratios that are greater than 1.0. The highest cost option, Option 2, also produced the greatest benefits in all accounts, all of which make an important contribution towards achieving the objectives and goals of both the City and the Province. (Page 51)
This is a straightforward, unambiguous conclusion. However, there is a covering report on the Metrolinx agenda, and it is not quite so clear in supporting LRT.
Although full LRT is the highest-cost option, it also generates the highest transportation user benefits in terms of travel time savings, ridership attraction and overall “qualitative” travel experience. LRT also carries a stronger potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate more significant economic development impacts such as employment, income and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the city and region. The BCA also identifies LRT as having greater potential to shape land uses and uplift land values along the King-Main corridor.
BRT is considerably less expensive to build and thus generates a strong benefits-cost ratio. At the same time, however, BRT delivers less total benefits and its secondary benefits are less extensive.
On the other hand, the significantly higher investment required for the full LRT option will require careful attention to the partial LRT option to increase affordability – and even to the BRT option if sufficient funding is unavailable for either LRT option. (Page 2, italics added)
This is an astounding statement. “Sufficient funding unavailable”? Whatever happened to the brave new world of The Big Move where transit investments would flow like water from Queen’s Park? Are we suddenly feeling poor, and cutting back on transit options? This rapid transit line is the second in the “top 15” priority list.
If the BCA had shown LRT to be a poor choice, one might understand taking the least cost option, but that is not the case here.
Metrolinx has some explaining to do, especially in regard to the many other top priority projects in its hopper. Maybe transit isn’t quite as important as Dalton McGuinty claimed it was back on that sunny day in June 2007 when he announced MoveOntario 2020.
It is interesting that they talk about “the connectivity to Hunter Street GO Station” when in another area they are talking about running 20 Toronto trains a day to North Hamilton GO station along with 8 Niagara trains. One wonders if the right hand ever talks to the left or if they only use the parts that back their pre-conceived idea. I do like the idea of the LRT and it is what most of the people seem to want, but if the use questionable rationales to back an idea that I like they can also use them to oppose an idea I like.
Steve: I have updated the main post with the press report of GO’s plans for additional trains to Hamilton and Niagara.
It is also interesting that HSR can operate, or thinks that they can operate a segregated LRT with private right of way on a 4 lane street, 20 m wide, while TTC wants 36 m for their transit city lines. HSR seems to think that they can get a relatively high speed for their service so Hamilton might be more committed to transit priority signalling. It would look good if Hamilton could run a better service than the TTC on a much narrower street.
Steve: It sounds as if HSR does not have to deal with city traffic engineers who are out to maximise road capacity.
Is there no way we can break the stranglehold of the city traffic engineers?
Steve: We need a city council and mayoral candidates who don’t quail every time some motorist complains about not being able to drive downtown unimpeded.
I am not so sure King Street is only 4 lanes wide… maybe I am thinking of Main, but aren’t they pretty wide thoroughfares? Maybe that’s the point, in that the bulk of traffic will be directed towards Main Street, seeing as it takes a straight course through Downtown, leaving King to become a transit and pedestrian-friendly road. When you mention BRT, Hamilton has already implemented limited-stop express service on this corridor using specially branded articulated buses, so if that’s not close, I don’t know what is.
I hope the HSR chooses the option of LRT over BRT for the east/west rapid transit alignment. It was mentioned in the article that BRT cuts down on greenhouse gases but LRT even more so. I really believe LRT has the possibility of getting more people on public transit then BRT.
I hope they are able to engineer an LRT line for the north/south route that would go up the escarpment to the airport from downtown. It would be great if Hamilton would be the next city after my old home town of Vancouver to get a rapid transit link to their international airport. Maybe that would motivate my birthplace of Montreal and my present home of Toronto to get into high gear and construct their own links to their respective airports.
Steve: Our airport link is mired in a proposal dating back to the Liberal government in Ottawa and their deal with SNC Lavalin to run a premium fare service from Union to the Airport. Nobody seems to want to kill this project and simply make that service part of GO or TTC’s network at regular fares. There are airport links, and there are airport links. Even Vancouver, which jacked up the price on the Canada Line for the Olympics, is charging nowhere near what “Blue 22” plans to charge here in Toronto.
February 13, 2010 at 6:18 am
In the heart of the downtown, starting at Gore Park the street is about 6 lanes wide and stays that width to just west of the 403. It is a wide 4 lane street west of there until it ends at McMaster. East of the Downtown it is basically 2 lanes of traffic with on street parking and a couple of bump outs that starts between Ferguson and Wellington I think to mark the “start” of the downtown. It stays 4 lanes until it crosses Main and the one way street operation ends. I think Main Street joins Queenston 5 or 6 blocks east of of Kennilworth at the funny traffic circle. From Main east Queenston is much wider; however, there is at least a 1 km long stretch that is a narrow 4 lane stretch that has been set up as a low cost version of what is planned for Roncessvalles, but one way.
Main is 5 or 6 lanes wide for its length from west of McMaster to the Junction with Queenston if I remember correctly. Hamilton has converted a number of north south streets back to 2 way through the downtown notably King and John. I am from Toronto so I have trouble keeping my directions straight in a city that is on the wrong side of the lake.
Steve: I highly recommend Google Maps and Goodle Earth for taking tours across the lake from the comfort of your armchair.
In fairness Steve, 2007 was a long time ago. It is hardly to be marvelled at that what the Province could do then is different from facing down a barrel of double-digit-billion dollar deficits. However, it is incumbent on our politicians to be honest about this rather than having their proxies in Metrolinx say “Oh Mr McGuinty, we said we needed this money before but now we don’t”
Maybe if someone in Hamilton started jumping up and down and claiming the Pan Am Games absolutely required LRT, the political winds would shift again?
Steve: There needs to be some honesty at Queen’s Park on the long term budget situation. Without question we are in a big hole now, but how much of that is one time “stimulus” spending, and how much is structural? We should not be making long term spending decisions based on short term special funding. Conversely, Queen’s Park, if they really are in a hole, has to start talking about alternate sources of revenue, notably sales and gas taxes. However, you won’t hear a word about this until after the next election. We can’t build what we don’t want to pay for.
I might be missing something..
If the proposed BRT options runs in an exclusive right-of-way (presumably the same as the LRT option would), why would it be 10 km/hr. slower?
Steve: An excellent question, and it isn’t really answered in the BCA. I can hazard a few ideas, but will follow this up with the folks at Metrolinx. It is possible that they are assuming shorter dwell times for LRT, but there’s not much to play with given the assumption of only 20 seconds, on average, for BRT. Also, there is a reference to possible problems with signal priority on the more frequent headway of BRT service. One way or another, this needs clarification.
February 13, 2010 at 10:42 pm
“I might be missing something..
“If the proposed BRT options runs in an exclusive right-of-way (presumably the same as the LRT option would), why would it be 10 km/hr. slower?”
Steve: “An excellent question, and it isn’t really answered in the BCA. I can hazard a few ideas, but will follow this up with the folks at Metrolinx. It is possible that they are assuming shorter dwell times for LRT, but there’s not much to play with given the assumption of only 20 seconds, on average, for BRT. Also, there is a reference to possible problems with signal priority on the more frequent headway of BRT service. One way or another, this needs clarification.”
ELECTRICITY! LRT has ac electric traction motors which allow for a much higher initial acceleration and allow the cars to keep accelerating at that rate to a higher speed. Diesel with hydraulic transmission does not have a high enough torque at the low end of the speed curve. LRT’s will have 2/3 of their axles powered whereas an articulated bus will only have one axle powered.
The second factor, I think, might be lane width. In the downtown sections the lanes will only be the width of Hamilton’s narrow traffic lanes and I doubt that a driver of a free wheeled vehicle can go as fast as one on rails. Another problem on low floor buses is the bottle neck created by the narrowing that the wheel wells cause in the aisle of the bus. This could slow down loading and unloading but if they are only allowing 20 seconds what are they allowing for the LRT’s?
Steve: In any event, I think that the study’s authors owe us an explanation if only to counter claims from the BRT advocates that they have skewed the results in favour of LRT. Also worth noting is the fact that the claimed speed for the LRT is faster than the scheduled speed for the Toronto subway which does not have to deal with traffic signals, cross streets, etc.
One reason why a BRT would be slower than a LRT is that buses need a wider right-of-way to move at a higher speed. The same reason why the lanes on the 401 are wider than the lanes on Bay Street. The higher the speed the wider the lane should be. A LRT can use a narrower right-of-way at a higher speed because of the rails, which keep them there.
“Common to all designs would be the reintroduction of two-way traffic on what is now the one-way pair of King and Main Streets in downtown Hamilton.”
Does this mean that all traffic will be two-way? If so, why is this necessary?
Would it not be better to leave the one-way traffic patterns for other traffic and place the bi-directional LRT (or BRT) ROW along one side of the road?
Steve: Hamilton has an ongoing program to restore two-way operation to downtown streets. Counterflow LRT operations are possible, but Hamilton also regards this change as beneficial for the character of street life and pedestrian activity. In effect, moving to two-way traffic slows everything down, and that is precisely what they want to do.
Yes, this is remarkable. Even more intriguing is the comparison with Transit City’s LRT lines. The surface sections of Finch and Sheppard are projected to run at 22 – 23 kph, whereas the Hamilton study expects Line B LRT to run at 35 kph.
Is Hamilton designing its LRT differently, or have they just guessed the speed instead of modeling?
Steve: See comments from other later in this thread regarding the design. There are two major differences between the Hamilton and Toronto proposals. In Hamilton, traffic signal pre-emption will be used for the LRT. This means that when the train shows up, it gets a green signal. In Toronto (at this point), the best we can hope for is green time extension to benefit transit, but no real signal priority (except at locations where a streetcar must turn across conflicting traffic). Also, the stop spacing in Hamilton is wider than the average projected for the Toronto lines. Combined with signal pre-emption, this should allow trains in Hamilton to move more quickly along their routes.
But the HSR operators do not have to contend with TTC management.
Steve: There also appears to be much stronger support at the political level in Hamilton for giving transit true priority rather than whatever time can be squeezed out of the motorists’ green time on sufferance.
From reading the Metrolinx report and the one by McCORMICK RANKIN CORPORATION done in April 2009 it would appear that there would have to be very strong signal preemption for the LRT which with a 4 minute headway versus the BRT at 2.5 minutes might be more acceptable:
The LRT has a large number of stations that are centre platform while the BRT requires that all will be side platform and mainly far side stops to allow left hand turns. In the narrow stretch between Paradise and the Queenston traffic circle some of the LRT stations will also be far side platforms. Both LRT and BRT will have a transit lane width of 3.8 m (12.5’), 3.5 m (11.5’) envelope for vehicle + 0.3 m (1.0’) for buffer. A standard lane width is 3.6 m (12’) while some streets go down to 3.3 m (10’). This lane width of 3.6 m should not impose a speed restriction on BRT.
The LRT, with a headway of 4 minutes, should pose less of a problem from having a high priority signal change than would occur with BRT at a headway of 2.5 minutes. Remember that both services are 2 way so the effect will appear twice as often at each intersection.
As I said earlier most of the speed improvement comes from Electric propulsion. AC electric traction motors on 4 out of 6 axles could provide an initial acceleration rate of 2.6 m/s/s but people can only tolerate 1.1 m/s/s. Diesel buses cannot approach 1.1 so they take longer to reach maximum speed. It easier to preempt traffic signals if you do it less often and LRT does this. The LRT vehicles have a wider floor space inside and more doors per m of vehicle length so they should load faster. In the best world, the route headway would be the same as, or a multiple of, the traffic signal; frequency. The LRT with a headway of 4 minutes, 240 seconds, could easily be a multiple of a 120 second traffic signal cycle time. BRT at a headway of 2.5 minutes, 150 seconds, would need to be once every signal cycle and this time is a little long for the intersection spacing in the downtown.
I don’t know if these travel times are realistic but the relative difference between them is, I believe, realistic.
The proposed B-Line replaces the existing ‘Beeline’ express bus service. It is the first part of a proposed rapid transit network called the BLAST network.
The plan is that the two GO stations will be connected by the proposed A-Line, which will run along Upper James & James St from the Airport to the Lake, serving Mohawk College, the existing Hunter St GO Centre, the downtown core where it will connect with the B-Line, and the new GO station at James North.
The city is very pro LRT, to the point that if Metrolinx only offers funding for a BRT, I think Hamilton will tell Metrolinx where to go and what they can do with the offer.
The local paper’s editorial board is supportive of LRT, but locals writing in are somewhat ill-informed and generally wary of the loss of street parking and reduction of through lanes of traffic. Even the mayor was reported to be skeptical of the conversion of Main and King Streets to two-way traffic. As always, the devil’s in the details.
While I believe the LRT is necessary and would greatly benefit transit users and urban vitality from Eastgate Square to McMaster University, I wonder if Metrolinx has considered the full implications of reconfiguring interchanges at Highway 403 to accommodate two-way traffic. The MTO already has plans to rehabilitate highway underpasses in this area, and these projects should be delayed until the BRT/LRT question is determined and designs are coordinated.
If a phased BRT/LRT combination is executed, lands would have to be acquired for a transfer loop somewhere near King & Ottawa. Furthermore, this would create an inconvenience for existing ridership, who currently enjoy express transfer-free service from Eastgate to the University.
Another question is the stretch of King Street from Wellington to John, a potential bottleneck. Here, the urban infrastructure was recently rehabilitated, and the local BIA has demonstrated measurable progress in the revitalization of the streetscape. I contend that this pedestrian-friendly stretch would do best if on-street parking is retained, two-way traffic is implemented, and the BRT/LRT operates in mixed traffic. The street’s cross section would then resemble Toronto’s Queen West, and the “congestion” caused by the mixed traffic would improve the pedestrian character along this stretch and ensure continued revitalization. This also requires proper planning to re-route through traffic along Main, Cannon and Wilson streets, with redesigned intersections and signalization.
Finally, construction of an expanded bus depot on MacNab street is already underway, which will eliminate the need for buses to layover at Gore Park. The depot’s current design is probably oriented for one-way traffic on Main & King and the conversion to two way would inconvenience connecting transfers, but at least it is en route of the proposed LRT. The city should also delay plans to revitalize Gore Park to take advantage of new traffic patterns and infrastructure that would emerge from the BRT/LRT.
Overall, projects already in the pipeline must be delayed and coordinated to reduce money wasted and eliminate the need to demolish recent work. If the LRT is given priority for the Pan-Am Games, the 5-year timeline will fast-track contracts and we can’t afford mistakes.
The north-south “A-line” (along James and Upper James Streets) would connect with the Hamilton GO Centre and any station at the LIUNA site. The A-line is also on Metrolinx’s 15-year priority list, although that list merely says “rapid transit” without saying L or B.
Being Hamilton-born, and a resident of the city for 36 years, I have to skeptical about LRT in Hamilton, from a social geography perspective.
The east-west line in particular is questionable. James Street roughly marks the boundary between two different worlds. I’m trying to choose my words carefully to not sound like an elitist… but I don’t see the professional-type folks living west of James heading east on public transit for any reason whatsoever. Likewise, the working-class folks in the east end are largely able to live their lives in the east end. It has been the east-enders that have most vocal in opposition to the project details so far, with their travel lanes and parking lanes under threat.
Between the east and west ends is Hamilton’s scary and devastated downtown, in which higher-order local rail transit would be as appropriate as the ICTS line in downtown Detroit. I’ve worked as both a paperboy and a visiting RN in the area and I hate to think about nice new LRT vehicles being disrepected by the visitors to the various crack dens in the area.
It’s true there are crush loads on the buses between the downtown and McMaster; that short stretch might be a good place to lay some tracks. But a full-length McMaster-to-Eastgate LRT would be an intrusive violation of the Hamilton culture. Hyperconvenient parking and traffic flow facilitated by synchronized stoplights (such that Main St. East is basically an extension of the Highway 403 ramps from Dundurn through to Ottawa St) are the highest civic values of Hamiltonians.
When James and John Streets were converted to two-way a few years ago, I lost count of the enraged letters-to-the-editor from people swearing they would never visit downtown again. Not too many are interested in the European ambiance and urbanity that LRT and transit-related development would bring.
These are real factors that must be considered along with the technical aspects of the question.
Even if built, I don’t see LRT having the “transformative” effect in Hamilton as it has in so many other communities. I’d be happy to see the province find somewhere else to invest several hundred million in transit.
The issue of the one way streets is a big problem in Hamilton. The Lower City is a fairly narrow section without many alternatives for drivers, and currently King and Main take the bulk of the east-west traffic quickly and efficiently. There’s a lot of support for the LRT, but there are also a lot of drivers who have serious and valid concerns over the loss in east-west road capacity.
I think it’s at least worth looking at route alternatives that balance transit and driving/parking concerns. Downtown Hamilton is starting to emerge as a stable and viable neighbourhood, but cutting its access by car at this point may not help.
I don’t know what the best solution would be, but I’d like to see a Main St. alignment studied, with a contra-flow LRT lane. This would leave 3 lanes each on King and Main, and a full parking lane on King. It would also reduce turns for the LRT, and put more development onto Main, which needs it more than King, in my opinion.
I also worry that King is a bit far from the GO station and bus terminal on Hunter St. Regarding James North, I expect a spur will be built as part of the first phase to take people between downtown, the LIUNA station, and the new Pan Am stadium on Stuart St. Eventually this can become the north end of the A line.
GO Transit unveiled a plan in which it aims to extend all-day train service — that now goes to Aldershot — to a proposed station on the CN line at James Street North.
It certainly sounds like a LRT or BRT line along James St. (from the Lake to the Airport) would be a nice possibility to complement the LRT or BRT proposed for the Main/King corridor.
With James and Upper James the ‘dividing line’ as described above, it would be good to have a public transport line running right down the middle (just as Yonge effectively divides Toronto into east & west).
The other benefit is that a James street line would be able to link both railway stations and the Hamilton Airport.
It sounds like the stars are starting to align in Hamilton’s favour. We can only hope that the arrival of better public transport in the city and better transport connections to Toronto and Niagara will help shake Downtown Hamilton out of its stupor.
If I may add, this image shows both the A Line (James) and B-Line (King/Main) options very nicely.
I agree with much of Raymond Dartsch’s well-considered comment, there is reason to be skeptical of the LRT’s transformative effect — in the short term. HSR’s current east-west routes already carry adequate ridership to justify LRT; and in the long-term, rising fuel costs will undoubtedly compel a new generation of Hamiltonians to reconsider their auto-centric society. With LRT, a proper alternative will already be in place. The combination of these factors will attract new residents along its corridor, and transit-oriented densification will occur.
There is so much potential within the urban fabric already in place along King Street. This is not like Detroit’s ALRT or a BRT through a hydro corridor.
Hamilton’s motorists have had it too good for too long, and the downtown has suffered with the constant flow of one-way through traffic. If they want to zip through the lower city, they’ll learn to use Burlington Street, Cannon and Wilson.
Mark C. may very well be right with his long-term predictions for Hamilton’s east-west corridor, perhaps when the current generation of Hamilton residents and politicans is replaced.
In regard to the urban fabric along King St., I recall a graphic from Hamilton’s BIZ magazine a decade ago that that showed King’s Victorian streetscape (what’s left of it) being detonated for the sake of the public good. The political and business elite of Hamilton have, for so long, been completely against the idea of “densification” (former mayor Larry DiIanni: “the environmentalists would have us living on top of each other, like in Europe”)(apparently this is a bad thing).
And with average working people complaining in advance about LRT, I’m not sure Hamilton deserves the investment.
With the completion of the Red Hill Expressway, Hamilton has received all the money it will get for major road projects from higher levels of government for the foreseeable future. I believe the current high levels of enthusiasm in LRT at Hamilton City Hall are more to do with hundreds of millions in construction contracts coming to town, than for LRT per se.
Putting my personal distate and grudges toward the Hamilton culture aside, I think Metrolinx planners would do well to introduce Hamiltonians to the LRT concept in gentle phases. As well as the downtown-to-McMaster route I described in my first post, a north-south line initially connecting Mohawk College to the bayfront, by way of James St. would be highly useful.
This would connect Mohawk to the Hunter St. GO station, downtown transit terminal, the new GO/VIA station on the CN line, and the bayfront neighbourhoods and parks. (As well as the future Pan Am games sites.)
This piece of the “A Line” would cross the escarpment and the development of a Mountain transit hub at its terminus would save hundreds of buses going up and down the mountain daily.
The Hamilton Spectator published a feature on the “A-line” concept (written by me) in 2002, when talk of LRT coming to Hamilton was restricted to those suffering from fever-induced delirium. With the help of a friend, we redecorated a CLRV with HSR colours to accompany the article, but the Spectator went with an archive shot of streetcar tracks on James St. instead. That HSR CLRV is still floating around cyberspace somewhere.
In any case, as a Hamilton refugee living in Guelph, I’d like to see LRT between Woodlawn and Clair Roads, along the Woolwich/Wyndham/Gordon corridor, as a higher priority than LRT in Hamilton. Guelph being such a “progressive” city, I don’t know why there is not more of a clamour for it here. I believe they are too busy planning grade-separated interchanges for the Hanlon Expressway to look at funding something actually useful.
To be fair, the price was not jacked up just for the Olympics (as in, the added fare is still in place–it wasn’t applied for the 17 days), and the added fare was always planned.
Now, that being said, the added fare is OUTRAGEOUSLY high.